Through her eyes: A millennial girl takes on Central Florida
By Alisha Ashford
In some areas of my life, I have always been a little impatient.
One of those areas would be my career. To wait four years after high school to get a degree in college in order to finally start grounding myself in a stable job just seemed like way too long. Quite honestly, I didn’t have the means to just go to a university full-time and live on a campus without working like many people I know. There has always been this pressure for me and my friends to go to a prestigious university right after graduating and obtain a bachelor’s degree within this four-year-timeline like everyone else. Hats off to anyone who has the opportunity to do so, but that just isn’t me. My parents always instilled in me that I have to work for the things I wanted in life. If that means I don’t get to have what many people would call the real “college experience,” then so be it.
After spending my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Spain, my next step was to get a job and enroll myself in some classes at Seminole State College to get my Associate degree before working towards a Bachelor at UCF. It didn’t take me long after to decide that I wanted to move out and start to take steps towards becoming independent. This, however, seemed pretty much impossible. At the time, I had only recently turned eighteen, I was working part-time at a TJ Maxx, and wasn’t making close to the level of income I’d need to support myself. After coming up with a plan to move out, I quickly realized that my part-time job in retail was not going to cut it. Regardless, even if working at that store was making me enough money, I wanted a job that was consistent, secure, and reliable. I felt ready for something more worthwhile. I started looking for jobs and stumbled across what is now one of the biggest blessings in my life. I was offered a position with the insurance office where I now work. Moving out was the decision that led me to take the path that I am on now, which places a job in the forefront and school on the side instead of the other way around.
I couldn’t have gotten any luckier than I did with this company. I really had no idea what was coming for me when I applied for this job. Benefits, great co-workers, job security, and daily support was truly not something I was used to, or ever thought I could obtain without a college education.
It seems like we are force-fed this idea in high school that we must go to college or else we will end up barely scraping by for the rest of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the value of a college education—which I why I am still a part-time student. I am just not convinced that it is impossible to get hired without a degree.
I am a strong advocate for going to college if you know exactly what you want in a career, and a degree is necessary to get there. But I also am an advocate for not going to college if you are just going because it “seems like the next step,” or you “don’t want to end up jobless.” Let me tell you if college is just the “next step,” it’s a pretty expensive and time-consuming step. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars annually for four or more years just to get a degree that you aren’t certain you’ll need?
I am not trying to persuade people to boycott universities or anything like that. I am going to college for these three reasons.
- I know what I want in a career.
- I know that having a degree is necessary to get there.
- I have a secure job, allowing me to pay my way through college instead of going into debt.
Apart from the positive financial aspects of getting a job before graduating from college, I believe that real work experience is crucial for anyone looking to find the job they desire job right out of college. It has become a problem among many recent college graduates who emerge from their 4-year degree program with close to no work experience and expect to get handed the job of their dreams. Without having some experience in the workplace under your belt (this could be through internships too), an employer may find that you are overqualified and underexperienced.
Despite the pressure around me to have the college experience that comes with being a full-time student, I am content with my decision to take the path I’ve taken because I know that even though it may take me longer than most people to graduate from college, I will greatly benefit from the choice long-term.
Alisha Ashford is a graduate of Lake Mary High School that spent a year in Spain through a student exchange program. She is currently a journalism major at Seminole State College.